| Posted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 12:35 pm
Actual letters on the matter:
|Mr Dave Richards
The FA Premier League,
30 Gloucester Place
9 May 2006
Re: Protest and request for the match between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur FC on 7/5/06 to be replayed
As you are aware, Sunday could have been a momentous day for our Club and our fans. It was the first time since the inception of the UEFA Champions League that we were in a position to qualify for European club football’s most prestigious competition. After such a successful League campaign, the excitement and expectation of our fans was simply enormous. Our match at West Ham was effectively a Cup Final.
However, we believe that our chances of success were significantly reduced by the exceptional circumstances brought about by the sudden illness of the majority of players in our First Team squad in the early hours of Sunday morning. In being given no viable option to postpone the match other than a 2-hour delay to kick-off, our players were denied the possible opportunity of competing in the Champions League, while our fans have been left with a sense of suspicion and injustice at the way subsequent events unfolded.
We contacted the FAPL early on Sunday morning and, after a series of conversations, the FAPL called for the England Team Doctor and the FAPL Company Secretary to attend our Team Hotel to assess the situation. We believed that the FAPL were examining the situation in good faith and were seeking to obtain all relevant information before coming to a decision. Indeed, in those early conversations the FAPL’s Chief Executive had given us every reason to believe the match could be postponed to allow our players some extra time to recover from a lack of sleep, vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration.
At this time, myself, Board members and other key decision makers joined the players at their hotel. Whilst waiting for the opinion of the England Team Doctor, who was yet to arrive at our Team Hotel, I was contacted from a distance by the FAPL and told that we had to play the game that day or suffer the consequences. This, by implication, may have meant a significant loss of points and the denial of participation in any European competition – a situation I could not sanction. This threat was made by the FAPL despite the fact that West Ham United, acting honourably and fairly as would be expected from that club, had consented to the postponement of the match provided that any re-match did not interfere with their FA Cup Final preparations.
The FAPL’s Chief Executive then said he would consider the match being delayed to later on Sunday evening, but unfortunately the Police would not sanction a kick off time beyond 5pm. Our medical staff advised that a delay of at least 3 hours would be necessary to have any impact on the players and therefore it was Martin Jol’s view that, in the absence of a postponement or a much later kick-off, we had no choice whatsoever but to proceed to play at 3pm. What puzzles us is why the FAPL were prepared to sanction a 4 hour delay but not a 24 hour delay. If the integrity of all matches kicking off at the same time was your primary concern, why sanction a delay of any kind?
Our next issue was team selection. Martin Jol and his staff, having originally selected their squad of 17 players for the match, were then left in the invidious position of choosing between starting the match with their original 17 players, 10 of whom were feeling very unwell, or drafting in Reserve Team players, the majority of whom have not played for the First Team this season or are untried and untested at First Team level. In any case, having ended their season, our Reserve Team players were scattered across various parts of London and the South East, would not have been prepared to play in a Premier League (or any other) match at such short notice and would rarely, if ever, have played together.
This was an impossible position for our coaching staff to find themselves in on the morning of what was our most important match for many years. Playing a make-shift, inexperienced and ill-prepared team in such a high profile game could have turned the match into a farce, resulting in an embarrassment for the players, the coaches, the Club, our fans and the Premier League competition as a whole.
To add insult to injury, the FAPL’s announcement that our game would not be postponed was made live on Sky TV from the pitch side at Highbury. In light of the obvious sensitivities and the competition for 4th place between Arsenal and Spurs this was, to say the least, an unfortunate choice.
We simply do not understand why the FAPL failed to appraise itself of all of the facts before turning down our request that the fixture be postponed under rule E 13.4. We were surprised that the FAPL’s Chief Executive did not make the short journey from Highbury to the Team Hotel at Canary Wharf to assess such a serious issue first hand. We also fail to understand why the England Team Doctor, having been sent to the Team Hotel, was not even consulted before an announcement was made (in fact, he did not even arrive at our hotel before the decision was made or even before our players had to leave the Team Hotel to travel to Upton Park for the match). As a result we played the game with players who were unwell but who were desperate not to let their fans and colleagues down. Clearly, our governing body put us in an impossible situation and gave a significant advantage to Arsenal in competing for that 4th position.
With this in mind we contacted those Premier League Chairmen and Chief Executives we were able to locate to establish what fellow members feel is an appropriate way forward given the unorthodox decision made by the FAPL prior to receiving objective information on the situation. We now have confirmation from a majority of Premier League clubs that they would support a replay and in similar circumstances would expect the game to have been postponed. This is a gesture made by fellow clubs which supports the Charter’s aims of running a professional league in a manner in which all of its member Clubs are treated equally and in a professional, fair and objective way. Additionally, from comments made by Sepp Blatter in the media in the past 24 hours, even FIFA would support the idea of a postponement provided the match was played on or before 15 May 2006.
We therefore formally request that you order that the game be replayed.
It is regrettable that we have been put in this position, but we feel let down by the FAPL’s abdication of its responsibility to consider the request for a postponement fairly and after due consideration of all relevant factors. Where such significant commercial and competitive interests are jeopardised it is only reasonable that our governing body ensures we play on a level playing field and supports us by making decisions based on the facts of the situation which has to include all relevant information. We feel sure that the FAPL, along with most reasonable minded people, would not have wanted such a controversial outcome to the final day of the Premier League season. Furthermore, the FAPL was inconsistent in its approach in being prepared to consider the kick-off to be delayed but not allowing the match to be played on a different day.
Finally, whilst our primary concern here is for our own Club, the situation we find ourselves in highlights what could have been an even bigger issue for a Club facing relegation from the FAPL. Similarly, it is hard to believe that, faced with an identical issue on the morning of a Champions League Final, a club would not seek a postponement (with the opposing team consenting) and that, given the importance of such an occasion, such a request would not be granted by UEFA in the interests of fairness and good sporting practice. In our view, and regardless of the outcome of our case, the FAPL’s decision making process and lines of communication in such a situation need thorough and urgent review in order to ensure that no other club is similarly disadvantaged in the future.
Chairman of Tottenham Hotspur
|10 May 2006
Mr Daniel Levy
Tottenham Hotspur Football & Athletic Co Ltd.
Bill Nicholson Way
748 High Road
London N17 0AP
Re: Protest and request for the match between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur FC on 7/5/06 to be replayed
The Board of the Premier League has today convened to consider your letter to Dave Richards regarding the above and would respond as follows:
Firstly, the Board and a majority of Premier League Clubs are sympathetic to your situation. To have Tottenham Hotspur Football Club’s (“THFC”) “momentous day” marred by such unprecedented events is clearly an unsatisfying way for the season to end. However the Board has to take a dispassionate view, independent of Clubs’ opinion, in order to protect the overall integrity of the League competition.
The fact that so much may have been riding on one game is not as a consequence of just last Sunday’s results, but is the product of 380 games played throughout an entire nine-month season. Speculation about what may have happened in different circumstances even within our league is inappropriate and, in other competitions, irrelevant.
As always, the Board can only deal with the facts on an individual basis and deal with any situation as and when presented. All those directly involved on the day acted in the utmost good faith and with due care in what were unusual circumstances.
The Board of the Premier League, as you might expect, were spread around all parts of the country on the last day of the season. The time frame during which the defining conversations took place was between 11.00am and 1.15pm. The initial contact between yourself and the Chief Executive took place around 11.45am. As always, the Premier League acknowledged your position and promised it would make a proper assessment but in order to do so, the General Secretary, Mike Foster, would need to be contacted. This area of the Premier League’s role is Mike’s responsibility and his experience in these matters since the League’s inception in 1992 is well known to all Clubs. The Board look to his wisdom and counsel on all such matters. Jane Purdon, the Premier League Company Secretary, volunteered to go to the team hotel. This was deemed sensible as it meant we could assess the facts on a first hand basis and have an established line of communication with your people at the hotel. Similarly the decision to send a doctor was deemed sensible to assist in any way we could and for gathering evidence in the event that further facts needed to be established independently for whatever purpose.
Over the course of the following hour, the Board gathered its facts and gave the matter due consideration. It concluded the following:
1) It was satisfied that the following significant facts pertained:
· 6 players had been confirmed as having suffered from either sickness and/or diarrhoea (S & D) that morning
· 2 other players had felt unwell but had not suffered from S & D
(These facts were established by Jane Purdon in consultation with the THFC Doctor)
· 17 players had been at the team hotel overnight
· 3 other registered players had been contacted by THFC and were able to make themselves available
· The match was due to take place at West Ham United (“WHU”) – geographically close enough to Tottenham and its vicinity so as not to prevent other players being called upon.
· An informed estimate that THFC had a minimum of 30 registered players.
2) Following a full discussion between all members of the Premier League Board and Mike Foster, we decided that the game should not be postponed. To do so would be inappropriate given past application of Premier League Rules and would lead to future problems for the Premier League if Clubs deemed these circumstances or similar to be worthy of postponement.
3) The appropriate course of action, having given due consideration to the facts, was to not postpone the game and to inform THFC that it would be their decision as to whether or not they fulfilled the fixture.
As you say, this decision was relayed to you by me whilst travelling towards London. You asked what the consequences would be if THFC failed to fulfil the fixture. I said that I could not pre-judge or advise. An independent commission would be convened to consider the facts and clearly THFC could plead mitigating circumstances. However this was one of the most serious of offences and John Alexander could advise on what has happened in the past, though, of course, all cases were different and based on their own facts.
On the basis of this, THFC obviously undertook your own assessment of the facts and reached your own decision.
THFC then asked the Premier League what our attitude would be to a delayed kick off. The Premier League Board reacted with empathy but needed to consider all the facts. WHU were contacted and made every effort to accommodate. However, understandably, the risk to public order of over 35,000 fans potentially converging on Upton Park for a four to five hour wait was deemed by the Police to be too great. A two-hour delay to kick off was considered to be of no material benefit to your players by your own medical people and therefore was rejected by THFC and the game proceeded at 3pm as scheduled. The Premier League response to your request in this matter bears no relevance to your request for a replay.
Clearly the Premier League Board, as THFC have done, reflected on Monday and re-assessed certain facts:
The Premier League appointed doctor we sent to the hotel arrived after the team bus left for Upton Park. However Jane Purdon, our representative at the hotel, had already relayed to the Board in detail the medical opinion of the THFC Doctor, Charlotte Cowie. The Board accepted her professional opinion and had no reason to dispute it. The Premier League-appointed Doctor’s opinion therefore was not needed.
We had made an informed estimate as to how many registered players THFC had. On checking records it turns out to be as follows:
- Registered players (full contracts) 48
- Out on loan (-6)
- In on loan +1
- Scholars +9
- Total eligible to play 52
- 33 players used in the first team this season
Of the six players confirmed with S & D, only two were in the starting eleven for your last three Premier League matches.
With respect to other matters that you do not fully understand, I set off to travel to Highbury for a pre-arranged end-of-season interview with Sky Sports. I arrived at 2.00pm having travelled 111 miles from the West Country. The earliest I could have arrived at your team hotel was 2.00pm, even if I had travelled directly there on approaching west London. I had already confirmed with John Alexander that the team bus was leaving at 1.15pm and so it would have been pointless to go there.
The Premier League made two official statements via its press office to PA concerning the situation. I only referred to the contents of those statements as part of a pre-planned review of the season on Sky Sports. This was not the chosen method of conveying the decision. For your information, the Sky Sports interview took place 40 minutes after your own Press Office had confirmed you were playing the game as scheduled at 3.00pm.
In summary, the Board having considered the contents of your letter carefully, finds no grounds for acceding to your request for a replay. Indeed, this power only exists under certain circumstances as specified in Rule E. 16 and E. 39, neither of which apply in this case. THFC did have the option of not fulfilling the fixture and will have made its own assessment of the risks associated with that decision. It would have been for an independent commission to have decided the merits of your case; rule on any sanction and/or the appropriateness of a replay.
The Board does not wish to jeopardise the respect and excellent relationship that exists between us and THFC. We remain very sympathetic to the unenviable position you found yourselves in and hope that neither THFC or any other Club will suffer the same fate again. However we believe we expedited our responsibilities effectively and with due care and consideration based on the facts available to us. We of course realise that for THFC a feeling of unfairness at the ill fated events of last Sunday will linger but trust that you will put this behind you and concentrate on domestic and UEFA Cup success next season.